The Guardian 2024-03-10 10:01:18


Hobart endures hottest night in 112 years as severe heatwave hits south-eastern Australia

Extreme heat forecast to continue across Victoria, Tasmania, SA and NSW for several days, as record temperatures cause cancellation of long weekend events

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Hobart residents sweated through the city’s hottest night in 112 years as a severe heatwave continues to affect large parts of south-east Australia.

Extreme heat is forecast to continue across South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and southern New South Wales for several days, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Sunday after record temperatures caused the cancellation of long weekend events.

Saturday was the hottest March day on record for Edithburgh on South Australia’s Yorke peninsula (41.7C) and Kanagulk (40.6C) in western Victoria.

The overnight low temperature in Hobart was 24.3C – the warmest night in the Tasmanian capital since 1912, according to the bureau’s records.

Sarah Scully, a senior meteorologist at the bureau, said hot nights were “really unusual” for Hobart, where the mean minimum overnight temperature for March is 11C. She said maximum temperatures were about 10 to 16 degrees above the March average across the heatwave-affected areas.

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“It was very hot last night,” Scully said.

“There’s been observed or forecast greater than 37C days for Melbourne for the entire long weekend. [The extreme heat] started [on Saturday] and is expected to continue right through the early hours of Tuesday morning.”

Temperatures should ease when a southerly change hits Melbourne and southern Victoria on Tuesday, but the state’s north and parts of South Australia will continue to swelter until Thursday when a “blocking” high-pressure system moves away.

Scully said the blocking high was causing northerly winds and dragging hot air over Australia’s south-east.

“It is unusual to have such intense heatwaves at this time of year, but it’s not unprecedented,” Scully said.

“Autumn is typically the transition season from the heat to the cooler months, so to have heatwaves during the early parts of Autumn [isn’t] unusual.”

Melbourne peaked at 36.9C late on Sunday with Avalon recording 40C and Geelong 39.6C. Temperatures were much cooler in Tasmania as a cold front pushed across the state with Hobart’s maximum temperature of 25.7C recorded before 8am.

Event organisers across south-eastern Australia were sweating over safety concerns and cancellations as the heatwave settled in.

One of the stages at Adelaide’s Womad was closed on Sunday due to the heat while a handful of other events were postponed until night or cancelled as temperatures climbed to almost 40C.

The conditions also prompted the cancellation of the Pitch music and arts festival in regional Victoria.

“Through consultation with authorities, we have been directed to cancel the remainder of Pitch Music & Arts 2024 in light of an updated extreme fire danger warning issued this afternoon for tomorrow,” the organisers said on Sunday afternoon.

“We have consistently followed the guidance of relevant authorities throughout the entire process. Nobody is in immediate danger. We encourage everyone on site not to rush [but] calmly pack up and depart either this evening or early tomorrow.”

Melbourne’s Moomba parade was cancelled on Saturday due to concerns for performers and spectators as temperatures soared in Victoria, but the infamous Birdman rally went ahead on Sunday.

“This is a very difficult decision, particularly in Moomba’s 70th year, but we must prioritise people’s health in these extreme conditions,” Melbourne’s lord mayor, Sally Capp, said of the parade being cancelled.

“Participants are required to spend several hours outdoors in hot, heavy costumes – putting them at greater risk.”

Melbourne was tipped to reach a maximum of 37C on Monday, with temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s predicted across most of the state. Adelaide was forecast to hit 38C with hot conditions in the high 30s and low 40s predicted for most regional areas in South Australia.

While the south-east sweltered, people at the opposite end of the country were being confronted by different weather extremes.

In Western Australia, the Eucla, Goldfields and southern interior regions were warned about the possibility of flash flooding and intense rainfall from a rain system that was likely to remain almost stationary for days.

– Additional reporting by Australian Associated Press

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Craig Foster apologises to Sam Kerr after arguing her alleged remark to UK police officer was racist

Former Socceroo says he made a mistake and is ‘very pleased to be able to learn’ that ‘racism can only be perpetrated against a marginalised person or group’

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Former Socceroo Craig Foster has apologised to Sam Kerr for criticising the Matildas captain after it was revealed she allegedly called a police officer in the UK a “stupid white bastard”.

Foster in a lengthy explanation on X stated he had been mistaken in thinking that any “discriminatory, demeaning or hostile” comment made referring to “any colour” was racism.

Kerr allegedly called a police officer a “stupid white bastard” or a “stupid white cop” after a night out in London in January 2023. She has pleaded not guilty in court to a charge of racially aggravated harassment.

Foster last week urged Football Australia to strip Kerr of the Matildas captaincy if the allegation was proven, to make a stand against racism. He said: “Interpersonal racism against a white person … is still racism.”

But on Saturday he explained that he had changed his mind.

“Like many, I mistakenly thought that comments that referenced any colour and were discriminatory, demeaning or hostile were a form of racism. I apologise to Sam for that mistake,” Foster wrote on X.

“Judging from the coverage, comments and conversations we’re all having, every day, there were major gaps in knowledge about how to deal with situations where the descriptor ‘white’ is used in a derogatory way.

“As many experts and leading anti-racism groups have pointed out, interpersonal comments can be offensive, abusive or inappropriate, however, racism can only be perpetrated against a marginalised person or group, which anti-racism frameworks are specifically designed to protect.”

Foster cited the Diversity Council of Australia’s definition of racism as being when someone “with race-based societal power discriminates, excludes or disadvantages a racially based person” because of their race, colour or descent.

The football commentator said in Australia, definitions of racism “were not designed to protect me as a white, Anglo, Australian male nor a white police officer who has even greater legal and racial power”.

He said he was “not at all surpised at having made a mistake and am very pleased to be able to learn”. Foster said no one should be scared, embarrassed or reticent “about doing our best to understand and confront racism”.

Foster has been an outspoken advocate against racism and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2021 for his work on multiculturalism, human rights and refugee advocacy.

In his apology, Foster directed readers to a Guardian Australia opinion piece by Alana Lentin and Francis Awaritefe who argued that racism in the context of Kerr’s case was “no longer the ideology that accompanies racial capitalist systems of colonialism, slavery and imperialism; it becomes a matter of individual morality”.

“Race, best understood as a technology that produces and maintains white supremacy as a global system of power, is reduced to bad behaviour,” Lentin and Awaritefe wrote.

Kerr, who is of Indian background, has been backed by various figures in Australian sport and politics, including the premier of her home state Western Australia.

Football Australia and Chelsea, the club Kerr plays for in the Women’s Super League, have supported the 30-year-old.

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New Zealand close in on drought-breaking Test victory against Australia

  • New Zealand 162 and 372; Australia 256 and 77-4 at Hagley Oval
  • Black Caps eye first Test win over rivals on home soil since 1993

New Zealand are in the box seat to claim a drought-busting Test win over their arch-rivals after Australia wilted on day three of the second Test.

Chasing 279 for victory, Matt Henry and debutant Ben Sears ripped through the Australian top order at Hagley Oval on Sunday, leaving Australia dazed at 34-4.

Travis Head and Mitch Marsh survived a mighty onslaught through to stumps, but at 77-4 and with 203 remaining for victory, Australia have it all to do.

New Zealand flipped the script on decades of Australian Trans-Tasman Test dominance on day three in Christchurch, cashing in on a day that held rich promise.

Resuming at 134-2 and just 40 ahead, the Black Caps knew a strong second innings total would set them up for a first home Test win over Australia in 31 years.

Rachin Ravindra (82) and Daryl Mitchell (58) tallied half-centuries to set the tone, joining Tom Latham (73) and Kane Williamson (51) who compiled fifties on Saturday.

Even Scott Kuggeleijn made a contribution with the bat, slogging 44 off 49 to frustrate the Australian attack.

New Zealand’s final total of 372 was more than double their previous efforts with the bat through the two-Test series.

Australia bowled without penetration on a wicket which improved session by session through the Test.

Pat Cummins offered eight of the Aussie XI the chance to bowl, including Marnus Labuschagne who earned a bronx cheer when he offered up a rank short-pitched wide with his first ball.

Cummins led the way with 4-62, including the wickets of half-centurions Williamson, Ravindra and Latham.

Nathan Lyon joined the party late, taking three of the final four wickets to finish with 3-49.

Most of Australia’s wickets came from edges, with Alex Carey levelling an Australian all-time record with ten catches behind the stumps.

Ravindra drove New Zealand forward, beginning on 11 and ticking the Kiwi lead into triple figures by dancing down the wicket and slogging Lyon to the long-on boundary.

Upping his scoring rate, the 24-year-old notched his half-century with a straight drive off Mitch Marsh.

Ravindra faced criticism for two ordinary first-innings dismissals this series, but in both Tests has rebounded with second-innings 50s.

He combined with Mitchell for a series-best 123-run stand which had New Zealand sitting pretty at 278-3.

Both were caught behind soon after Australia took the new ball.

Tom Blundell (9) followed when Marnus Labuschagne dived well at cover, only for the Australian No 3 to drop Kuggeleijn in the slips cordon when he was on two.

Kuggeleijn and Glenn Phillips added another half-century partnership, making Australia’s fourth-innings ask all the more difficult.

If the flattened pitch offered hope to the Australian bats, Henry and Sears soon extinguished it.

Henry, picking up from a first innings haul of 7-67, was unplayable at times in a nine-over spell from the Botanical Gardens end, claiming both openers.

The 32-year-old trapped Steve Smith (9) plumb in front, while Usman Khawaja (11) was brilliantly caught by Southee at third slip.

On his first Test outing, Sears had Labuschagne (6) caught and bowled off a leading edge, just two balls after Mitchell dropped a sharp chance at second slip.

Cameron Green (5) was beaten for pace by Sears and played on.

While Marsh and Head steadied the ship in the final half-hour, Australia remain a long way from home.

Defeat for Australia would see a second-straight drawn series, after the disappointment of the home West Indies series last month.

For New Zealand, it would salvage the series at 1-1, and earn that elusive success that a generation of Kiwis are yet to taste

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Catch up on all of the action from day three at Hagley Oval:

Pure imagination: Tasmanian premier vows to build world’s largest chocolate fountain if re-elected

Liberal Jeremy Rockliff commits $12m and says ‘chocolate experience’ at Claremont would be ‘the greatest thing to happen to tourism since Mona’

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Dubai is home to the world’s tallest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa. Nepal boasts Mount Everest. Soon, if Jeremy Rockliff gets his way, Tasmania could be home to the world’s largest chocolate fountain.

The Tasmanian premier on Sunday appeared to take inspiration from Willy Wonka by pitching himself to voters as the dreamer of dreams during a visit to the Cadbury chocolate factory – the largest in the southern hemisphere – near Hobart.

Channeling his inner Wonka, Rockliff said that if re-elected his Liberal government would deliver “the greatest thing to happen to tourism since Mona”.

What could rival the Museum of Old and New Art? The world’s largest chocolate fountain, which would “rewrite the ‘must-see’ list for every visitor that comes to Tasmania”, the premier enthused.

The new “chocolate experience” would include the chocolate fountain, a premium chocolate studio, a chocolate lab with a make-your-own chocolate bar, a chocolate emporium, a café, a playground “and so much more”, the premier said.

It would sit alongside the Cadbury factory on the River Derwent but would be a separate enitity backed by the government and “tourism pioneer” Simon Currant.

“Two hundred million chocolate bars are produced right here at Cadbury’s at Claremont employing some 450 Tasmanians. We want to build on that, add value,” Rockliff said alongside Currant.

“You can imagine some glass windows looking out over the beautiful waters and you would experience, as you come through here, the new building, the world’s largest chocolate fountain, for example, a chocolate lab – an opportunity where Tasmanians can make their own Tasmanian chocolate with Tasmanian ingredients.

“Once again we will reignite the wonderful tours that many thousands of Tasmanians can well remember with great fondness and with great affection.”

Adding to the sense of wonder, he said a returned Rockliff government would kick in $12m to make the “chocolate experience” a reality, including $2m to help with design and planning, another $2m for early site work and then $8m for unspecified activities if “agreed milestones” were met.

According to Currant, the project – the result of “15 years of research and collaboration in conjunction with Cadbury” – would cost $100m and “bring a world of chocolate delights, wonder and excitement” to the Apple Isle.

The Guinness World Records says the world’s tallest chocolate fountain is owned by Austrian chocolatiers Confiserie Wenschitz GmbH. It opened in 2019. The chocolate waterfall stands at 12.27 metres with 1,000kg of liquid chocolate cascading down its panels.

It is unclear whether the public would be able to taste Tasmania’s proposed chocolate fountain or what sort of food safety regulations the proposal would have to meet.

Guardian Australia contacted the Tasmanian premier’s office for further details but did not receive a response before publication.

The Cadbury factory is a place of nostalgia for many Tasmanians – particularly since the company ended public tours in 2008 due to more stringent health and food safety regulations. Cadbury owners Mondelez International were contacted for comment on Sunday.

The state’s Labor opposition leader, Rebecca White, said it would be “really exciting to see new experiences come to life” and her party would “love to see the visitor experience happen again”.

But she said the government had questions to answer regarding transparency and decision-making.

“The Labor party has already announced a $50m no-interest loans program that would be eligible for operators in the visitors economy to apply to and I would welcome the proponents of the Cadbury visitor experience to make an application under our program,” she said.

“It’s really important that when a government is handing out taxpayer money, they do it transparently. We don’t want to see what happened at the New Norfolk distillery where the Liberal party made commitments and were unable to explain what the criteria were for applications.”

In 2023, questions were asked about a $1.2m grant to a New Norfolk distillery made outside of normal grant processes after a Liberal minister requested “private consideration” of the application.

Independent Tasmanian MLC Meg Webb questioned the government’s priorities saying the money could be better spent by providing additional funding to critical government services like healthcare.

“That [$12m] is a huge amount of money when you think about the ways it could be spent in areas that are absolutely screaming out for government support and are actually government responsibilities,” Webb said.

“It’s just virtue signalling to large corporates. They’re throwing everything at the wall in a desperate attempt to stay in power.”

Tasmania will head to the polls a year before an election was due after Australia’s last remaining Liberal premier, Rockliff, called an early election for 23 March.

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Pure imagination: Tasmanian premier vows to build world’s largest chocolate fountain if re-elected

Liberal Jeremy Rockliff commits $12m and says ‘chocolate experience’ at Claremont would be ‘the greatest thing to happen to tourism since Mona’

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Dubai is home to the world’s tallest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa. Nepal boasts Mount Everest. Soon, if Jeremy Rockliff gets his way, Tasmania could be home to the world’s largest chocolate fountain.

The Tasmanian premier on Sunday appeared to take inspiration from Willy Wonka by pitching himself to voters as the dreamer of dreams during a visit to the Cadbury chocolate factory – the largest in the southern hemisphere – near Hobart.

Channeling his inner Wonka, Rockliff said that if re-elected his Liberal government would deliver “the greatest thing to happen to tourism since Mona”.

What could rival the Museum of Old and New Art? The world’s largest chocolate fountain, which would “rewrite the ‘must-see’ list for every visitor that comes to Tasmania”, the premier enthused.

The new “chocolate experience” would include the chocolate fountain, a premium chocolate studio, a chocolate lab with a make-your-own chocolate bar, a chocolate emporium, a café, a playground “and so much more”, the premier said.

It would sit alongside the Cadbury factory on the River Derwent but would be a separate enitity backed by the government and “tourism pioneer” Simon Currant.

“Two hundred million chocolate bars are produced right here at Cadbury’s at Claremont employing some 450 Tasmanians. We want to build on that, add value,” Rockliff said alongside Currant.

“You can imagine some glass windows looking out over the beautiful waters and you would experience, as you come through here, the new building, the world’s largest chocolate fountain, for example, a chocolate lab – an opportunity where Tasmanians can make their own Tasmanian chocolate with Tasmanian ingredients.

“Once again we will reignite the wonderful tours that many thousands of Tasmanians can well remember with great fondness and with great affection.”

Adding to the sense of wonder, he said a returned Rockliff government would kick in $12m to make the “chocolate experience” a reality, including $2m to help with design and planning, another $2m for early site work and then $8m for unspecified activities if “agreed milestones” were met.

According to Currant, the project – the result of “15 years of research and collaboration in conjunction with Cadbury” – would cost $100m and “bring a world of chocolate delights, wonder and excitement” to the Apple Isle.

The Guinness World Records says the world’s tallest chocolate fountain is owned by Austrian chocolatiers Confiserie Wenschitz GmbH. It opened in 2019. The chocolate waterfall stands at 12.27 metres with 1,000kg of liquid chocolate cascading down its panels.

It is unclear whether the public would be able to taste Tasmania’s proposed chocolate fountain or what sort of food safety regulations the proposal would have to meet.

Guardian Australia contacted the Tasmanian premier’s office for further details but did not receive a response before publication.

The Cadbury factory is a place of nostalgia for many Tasmanians – particularly since the company ended public tours in 2008 due to more stringent health and food safety regulations. Cadbury owners Mondelez International were contacted for comment on Sunday.

The state’s Labor opposition leader, Rebecca White, said it would be “really exciting to see new experiences come to life” and her party would “love to see the visitor experience happen again”.

But she said the government had questions to answer regarding transparency and decision-making.

“The Labor party has already announced a $50m no-interest loans program that would be eligible for operators in the visitors economy to apply to and I would welcome the proponents of the Cadbury visitor experience to make an application under our program,” she said.

“It’s really important that when a government is handing out taxpayer money, they do it transparently. We don’t want to see what happened at the New Norfolk distillery where the Liberal party made commitments and were unable to explain what the criteria were for applications.”

In 2023, questions were asked about a $1.2m grant to a New Norfolk distillery made outside of normal grant processes after a Liberal minister requested “private consideration” of the application.

Independent Tasmanian MLC Meg Webb questioned the government’s priorities saying the money could be better spent by providing additional funding to critical government services like healthcare.

“That [$12m] is a huge amount of money when you think about the ways it could be spent in areas that are absolutely screaming out for government support and are actually government responsibilities,” Webb said.

“It’s just virtue signalling to large corporates. They’re throwing everything at the wall in a desperate attempt to stay in power.”

Tasmania will head to the polls a year before an election was due after Australia’s last remaining Liberal premier, Rockliff, called an early election for 23 March.

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‘We believe he is scared’: Sydney residents urged to search properties for missing 12-year-old boy

Hussein Al Mansoory, who is non-verbal, was last seen running from a park in Auburn on Saturday morning and is believed to still be in the area

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Authorities are urging homeowners in western Sydney to check their back yards as they ramp up search efforts for a missing 12-year-old boy who has Down syndrome and autism.

Hussein Al Mansoory was last seen running from Auburn Memorial park in western Sydney towards the intersection of Station Road and Rawson Street on Saturday morning.

Al Mansoory was sighted again on Saturday night by an Auburn resident who called the police. The resident tried to approach the boy but Al Mansoory was frightened and walked away.

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Police and the NSW State Emergency Service (SES) said they were particularly concerned about the 12-year-old’s welfare, given the extreme heat.

Police hold serious concerns for the boy and said his family were “distraught”.

Insp Mark Wakeham said police were searching the surrounding streets and hoped the boy had not gone far. They are “hopeful he is still in the vicinity and, as a result, we are asking members of the community if they can please keep a lookout for him”, Wakeham told reporters.

“We believe he is scared. He may walk away from members of the community if approached. If that is the case, please contact triple zero immediately.”

Wakeham asked locals to check their back yards and garages.

“If any local residents can search their yards, their sheds, their garages, that will be greatly appreciated and if he is sighted please contact Crime Stoppers.

“We have numerous resources, assisting from SES and numerous police resources. Every resource we can deploy is being deployed.”

Police checked footage at the local railway station and do not believe Al Mansoory caught a train.

The NSW SES had over 50 volunteers combing the area for Al Mansoory on Sunday, with the unit’s commander, Jamie Newman, saying the weekend’s hot weather was a concern.

“Today will be quite warm, over 30C. We hope he has gone to ground somewhere and he is trying to stay out of the heat. Our volunteers will search everywhere.”

Both police and the NSW SES said the search was made more difficult by Al Mansoory being non-verbal and non-responsive.

“It’s made things more difficult for us. Our volunteers are trained in land search techniques, so they will use all the resources they have available and all their skills and training to put that into play to try to make contact with him,” Newman said.

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‘Tell him he’s dreaming’: Bowen rubbishes Coalition claim Australia could have nuclear power in a decade

Energy minister says average build time for a nuclear plant in US is 19 years and giving up on renewables would be a ‘massive economic own goal’

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The federal energy minister, Chris Bowen, has dismissed Coalition MP Ted O’Brien’s claim that Australia could develop a nuclear power industry within a decade, stating: “Tell him he’s dreaming.”

The mocking comment on Sunday came as the government continued to pour scorn on the opposition’s speculative alternative plan to renewable energy. O’Brien said the Coalition was in the “advanced stages” of finalising its policy, which is not expected to be unveiled for several weeks.

Bowen also told ABC TV that the government was open to amending its fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles while again denying claims from the Coalition and some manufacturers that it would increase car prices.

The Coalition’s push for nuclear energy in Australia has been derided by the government and experts. The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has not specified where the potential nuclear facilities would be located, nor how much they could contribute to the nation’s energy mix.

Sky News reported on Sunday that a 2020 paper from the NSW chief scientist found a nuclear power industry would require tens of thousands of trained staff and at least two decades to become operational.

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Responding to the report, O’Brien – the opposition’s energy spokesman – claimed the Coalition had received different advice.

“The best experts around the world with whom we’ve been engaging are saying Australia could have nuclear up and running within a 10-year period,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien did not reveal which experts the Coalition had talked to. Guardian Australia asked his office for more information.

The shadow minister said nuclear could be part of a “balanced mix” of other power types and he criticised Labor for being “negative”.

Bowen was asked about O’Brien’s claim that nuclear could be developed in Australia within a decade.

“Tell him he’s dreaming,” Bowen said on the ABC’s Insiders program, referencing the Australian comedy movie The Castle. “I don’t know what experts he’s talking to.”

Bowen said the average build time for a nuclear plant in the US – a country he called “the nuclear leader of the world” – was 19 years.

“Ted O’Brien thinks he can do it in Australia in 10 with a standing start, no regulations, banned not only nationally but in the three most populous states,” Bowen said.

The minister rubbished arguments that Australia should scrap its ban on nuclear energy to allow private industry to investigate options, claiming that establishing a nuclear industry would require “eye-watering amounts of government taxpayer subsid[ies].”

“I’ve had no one knock on my door to say ‘I want to build a nuclear power plant in Australia’ but I had plenty of the world’s biggest renewables companies through my door,” Bowen said on Sunday.

“There’s a myth this is happening elsewhere in the world. It’s not. Australia has the best renewable resources in the world. It would be a massive economic own goal to give up utilising those resources and go down this nuclear fantasy.”

Beyond suggesting nuclear plants be built at former coal-powered facilities, the Coalition has not confirmed details of their policy – including costs, timeframes, how local opposition would be overcome and the amount of power to be generated.

Dutton could fill in some of the blanks in his budget reply speech in May. He is under pressure to announce details.

Coalition MPs have been agitating for the opposition leader to outline new policies they can spruik ahead of the federal election, which could be held this year.

Bowen on Sunday suggested Labor was open to considering “good-faith” amendments to its fuel efficiency standards, designed to encourage carmakers to sell more fuel-efficient vehicles in Australia.

The Coalition and some manufacturers claim the standards would increase the price of work vehicles like utes and trucks.

Bowen denied the policy would raise the price of popular cars like the Toyota HiLux. “That hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world and why would it happen in Australia?” he said on Sunday.

“[But] where an idea has been made to us, sensibly, we will consider it sensibly, in good faith, to help the implementation of what is a big and complicated policy.

“We are not going to be sort of bullied out of proceeding with a policy which is in the best interests of the Australian people.”

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Eight children and an adult die in Zanzibar after eating sea turtle meat

Another 78 people taken to hospital after consuming delicacy, which is known to cause food poisoning

Eight children and an adult have died after eating sea turtle meat on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, and 78 other people have been taken to hospital, authorities said on Saturday.

Sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy in Zanzibar but it periodically results in deaths from chelonitoxism, a type of food poisoning.

The adult who died late on Friday was the mother of one of the children who succumbed earlier, said the Mkoani district medical officer, Dr Haji Bakari. He said the turtle meat was consumed on Tuesday.

Bakari told the Associated Press that laboratory tests had confirmed all the victims had eaten sea turtle meat.

Authorities in Zanzibar, which is a semi-autonomous region of the east African nation of Tanzania, sent a disaster management team that urged people to avoid consuming sea turtles.

In November 2021, seven people, including a three-year-old, died on Pemba after eating turtle meat and three others were hospitalised.

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Eight children and an adult die in Zanzibar after eating sea turtle meat

Another 78 people taken to hospital after consuming delicacy, which is known to cause food poisoning

Eight children and an adult have died after eating sea turtle meat on Pemba Island in the Zanzibar archipelago, and 78 other people have been taken to hospital, authorities said on Saturday.

Sea turtle meat is considered a delicacy in Zanzibar but it periodically results in deaths from chelonitoxism, a type of food poisoning.

The adult who died late on Friday was the mother of one of the children who succumbed earlier, said the Mkoani district medical officer, Dr Haji Bakari. He said the turtle meat was consumed on Tuesday.

Bakari told the Associated Press that laboratory tests had confirmed all the victims had eaten sea turtle meat.

Authorities in Zanzibar, which is a semi-autonomous region of the east African nation of Tanzania, sent a disaster management team that urged people to avoid consuming sea turtles.

In November 2021, seven people, including a three-year-old, died on Pemba after eating turtle meat and three others were hospitalised.

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Haiti crisis: gangs attack police stations as Caribbean leaders call for emergency meeting

National palace guards set up security ring after gangs attack at least three police stations in Port-au-Prince

  • Explainer: what caused Haiti’s gang violence crisis

Police and palace guards worked on Saturday to retake some streets in Haiti’s capital after gangs launched massive attacks on at least three police stations.

Guards from the National Palace accompanied by an armored truck tried to set up a security perimeter around one of the three downtown stations after police fought off an attack by gangs late Friday.

Sporadic gunfire continued to be reported on Saturday. The unrelenting gang attacks have paralysed the country for more than a week and left it with dwindling supplies of basic goods. Haitian officials extended a state of emergency and nightly curfew on Thursday as gangs continued to attack key state institutions.

Prime minister Ariel Henry, who is also acting president, was in Kenya when the gang violence began on 29 February and has been unable to return to Port-au-Prince. The US earlier this week called on him to expedite a political transition as armed gangs seek his ouster.

Caribbean leaders issued a call late on Friday for an emergency meeting Monday in Jamaica on what they called Haiti’s “dire” situation. They have invited the United States, France, Canada, the UN and Brazil to the meeting.

Members of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) regional trade bloc have been trying for months to get political actors in Haiti to agree to form an umbrella transitional unity government.

Many Haitians have been forced from their homes by the bloody street fighting and are now seeking refuge in government buildings.

So far, efforts to broker a solution have been unsuccessful. Caricom, the 15-nation Caribbean bloc, said in a statement late Friday that “the situation on the ground remains dire”.

The Caricom statement said that while regional leaders remain deeply engaged in trying to bring opposition parties and civil society groups together to form a unity government, “the stakeholders are not yet where they need to be”.

“We are acutely aware of the urgent need for consensus to be reached,” according to the statement. “We have impressed on the respective parties that time is not on their side in agreeing to the way forward.”

In February, Henry agreed to hold general elections by mid-2025, and the international community has tried to find some foreign armed force willing to fight gang violence there.

Caricom has also pushed Henry to announce a power-sharing, consensus government in the meantime, but the prime minister has yet to do so even as Haitian opposition parties and civil society groups are demanding his resignation.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken spoke with Kenyan president William Ruto about the Haiti crisis and the two men underscored their commitment to a multinational security mission to restore order, the state department said on Saturday. Kenya announced last year it would lead the force but months of domestic legal wrangling have effectively placed the mission on hold.

Henry traveled to Kenya to push for the UN-backed deployment of a police force from the east African country to fight gangs in Haiti. A Kenyan court, however, ruled in January that such a deployment would be unconstitutional.

Henry remains unable to return home. He arrived in Puerto Rico on Tuesday after he was unable to land in the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti.

On Saturday, the office of Dominican president Luis Abinader issued a statement saying that “Henry is not welcome in the Dominican Republic for safety reasons”. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, has closed its land border.

The statement described the security situation in Haiti as “totally unsustainable” and said it “poses a direct threat to the safety and stability of the Dominican Republic”.

The statement predicted “the situation could deteriorate even further if a peacekeeping force is not implemented urgently to restore order”.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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Australia’s chief scientist takes on the journal publishers gatekeeping knowledge

Under Dr Cathy Foley’s world-first open access model, all Australians would have access to research papers for free

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Before Latin mass was abandoned in the late 1960s, the average church-goer got by picking up snippets of phrases and the meanings of gestures.

To Dr Averil Cook, that’s what scientific research is like in the 21st century. The public relies on information to be synthesised for us, trickled down until it is devoid of its origin.

Cook, a clinical psychologist, is lucky. She can access the full breadth of scientific research due to being an adjunct professor at UNSW.

But without the backing of academic institutions and prestigious organisations, professionals – including doctors, frontline clinicians and politicians – are in the dark, unless they can fork out thousands on expensive journal subscriptions.

“In my work, access to research is critical – we’re scientists, it’s constantly evolving,” Cook says. “But most psychologists don’t have the chance to become adjuncts or access journals.

“It’s a source of deep frustration. I need to be kept up date with all sorts of scientific updates but you’re hamstrung if you wait for it to be filtered to you.”

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The gatekeeping of research journals needs to be urgently addressed if Australia is to drive innovation, academics have warned, with the nation lagging behind on open access reform.

Australia has produced almost 2m research publications since the turn of the century. But just 43% were open access, with the rest stuck behind expensive paywalls and largely inaccessible to the public.

Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, has placed open access firmly on the agenda before her three-year tenure ends in December.

Her world-first open access model, recently finalised for the federal government, would provide a centralised digital library for all Australians to access research papers free of charge, as long as they had a MyGov account or were in education. It is currently under departmental consideration.

“We’ve set up a crazy system where publishers own and control knowledge and we’ve let them do that,” Foley says. “Researchers give content for free, sign over copyright, and publishers make a lot of money.

“You can get rubbish, nonsense and misinformation online for free but you have to pay for the good stuff. We need to make sure we’re getting the right information out there.”

Journal publishers have one of the highest profit margins of any industry, taking in an estimated $20bn US a year.

Five major players control more than half of the market, led by Elsevier, with a profit margin of nearly 40% – in excess of Apple, Netflix, Google and Amazon. None are Australian, a market composed of small journal publishers that’s been on a steady decline for a decade.

Under the “publish or perish” mentality, academics fork thousands to publish a paper in a high-profile journal, relying on the distribution of their research to maintain positions, reach audiences and attract grants.

Meanwhile, the journals run largely on volunteer labour. Peer reviews are done for free, and editors take small stipends of about $1,500 a year. Some, including Foley, edit gratis.

Then, universities pay millions to access to the journals, despite the production of content being largely paid by research funds. Without subscriptions, downloading a single paper can cost anywhere from $30 to more than $500.

There have been radical attempts to take-down the monopolies. A decade ago, Alexandra Elbakyan, hailed as the “Robin Hood of Science”, set up a pirate “shadow library” in Kazakhstan in protest of the high cost of accessing research.

SciHub provides free access to papers by bypassing paywalls and ignoring copyright, relying on donations and frequently changing domain names to stay operational.

It now serves more than 400,000 requests a day, hoarding more than 84 million papers despite being banned in some countries, sued twice in the United States and sitting on the European Commission’s “piracy watch list”. Its viability, and legality, remains uncertain.

In Australia, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) has taken the lead on negotiating open access agreements on behalf of institutions.

The executive director, Jane Angel, says “double dipping” publishers are the only beneficiaries of the current system.

“Article processing charges are paid by the researcher to publish the article, and then publishers sell the published research to the universities who buy it back for use in the very institutions that have already paid for and generated the research,” she says.

“It’s the people who have that privilege of affiliation or association with an educational [or research] establishment who may have access, or those beyond who have the means to pay.

“If knowledge stays behind paywalls, it impedes the advancement of our country. It’s also a moral question for Australia – is the current publishing model fair?

“Open access is about making us a more equitable society, because it puts information into the hands of everyone.”

Open access rates are steadily increasing – as of 2023, four in 10 papers Australian papers were closed, compared with six in 10 the previous decade. But the country still has not caught up internationally.

There are 134 countries that rank higher than Australia on Curtin University’s open access dashboard, including the UK and large parts of Europe, which have sweeping requirements that publicly funded research be freely available at an additional author fee.

In Australia, just two national funding agencies – the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC) – require publications from funded research be made freely available, with loopholes for legal and contractual arrangements. Only half of government-listed universities have an open access policy or statement.

Foley’s model would go further, democratising the system by making Australia the first country in the world to have a single relationship with all publishers.

She says the cost would be low, pooling together Australia’s estimated half a billion spent annually on subscriptions, similar to how medicine is subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

But it relies on universities, publishers, stakeholders and the federal government to agree.

Elsevier is on board. A spokesperson says they’ve been “working constructively” with Foley and “stands ready to support her vision”.

“Around 20% of Australia’s peer-reviewed scholarly output over the last six years is published with Elsevier,” the spokesperson says, adding Australia’s citations impact is twice the world average.

Vice-chancellors and ministers have also taken a keen interest – though some universities have expressed reservations about how it would impact budgets and the future of librarians.

“This is transformational, but threatening for some,” Foley says. “Publishers are very open to this to build social license. It has potential for Australia to create a competitive advantage.”

In part, a competitive advantage comes down to money.

According to the CWTS Leiden Ranking, the University of Harvard ranks first globally for open access to its research (72.7% of publications). It’s also the richest university in the world – bigger than the economies of 120 nations.

The University of Melbourne ranks first in Australia and 18th in the world, with 65% of its publications available to the public and a high output of research (25,769 publications).

The only other Australian universities with open access proportions of more than 60% are ANU, QUT, Griffith University and the University of South Australia.

Foley says it’s not just universities who would win from a nation-wide deal. Leading academic research is also inaccessible to federal ministers, who she says struggle to make key policy decisions without access to the latest literature.

The Productivity Commission’s five-yearly inquiry, published last year, pointed to statistics showing research papers had a limited reach for Australian businesses and policymakers.

“As a society, this is limiting our ability to make good decisions,” Foley says.

“The number of times I’ve spoken about this to politicians and ministers … they’re making decisions on a Sunday night, getting ready for a cabinet meeting … they want to get to the core of the information to be able to understand it.”

Others say democratisation is not so simple.

Nicole Clark, a university librarian at QUT, says diverse-voices need to be prioritised before publisher driven models.

QUT was the first university in the world to have an open access policy, and recently celebrated two decades of its free repository, which holds 74,000 research outputs.

“In large part our open access policy is an equity argument – we have peer-reviewed literature but also theses and non-traditional publications … early versions of manuscripts, artworks, music,” she says.

“That’s not going to get covered under Foley’s plan.”

Cook agrees. She says researchers are desperate for their publications to be open access to reach wider audiences, but it also comes at a cost.

The prestigious publication Nature, for instance, receives four times more downloads for its open-access journals, but article processing charges are $9,500.

“You end up with the top tier providing research,” she says. “You don’t get people like my students who don’t have money to throw away.”

She says it’s “naive” to assume expanding open access will democratise the system unless barriers to the production of research are broken down – which requires investment in early career researchers and people from diverse cohorts.

“Science has been curated by people in power,” she says. “This information effects our lives, the people we see and there’s no way to access it except through a filtered and biased medium.”

Mark Gregory, an associate professor at RMIT’s School of Engineering, says Foley’s model is fundamentally flawed because it enshrines a national debt to wealthy international publishers, who were likely to tack on hefty increases once an agreement was reached.

“Why do Australians have this desire to make Americans rich? It’s the public’s money,” he says, citing Europe and China, which have invested significant sums in building up local journals with open access.

Gregory says Australia should do the same, via a national research publisher funded by universities that could bring struggling local journals under its banner.

“If these were Australian journals, the government could regulate funding and negotiate agreements for open access publishing. Otherwise, we’re going to lose them all [to the big corporations],” he says.

“We need the boat to be rocked.”

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Woman’s body found in wheelie bin in bushes in regional Victoria

Victoria police say death is suspicious and alleged offender ‘may have fled overseas’

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Police are investigating the death of a woman whose body was reportedly found in a wheelie bin in Victoria’s south-west.

Her body was discovered on Mount Pollock Road in the town of Buckley, about 25km from Geelong, at midday on Saturday.

Footage of the area shows detectives and police near a wheelie bin in bushes on the side of the road. Multiple Melbourne news outlets reported the body was found in the bin.

“Investigators are treating her death as suspicious and a crime scene has been established,” Victoria police said in a statement.

“A second crime scene has been established at a residential address on Mirka Way, Point Cook, and is believed to be connected to the homicide.”

Investigators believe those involved are known to one another and the alleged offender “may have fled overseas”. No arrests have been made.

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United’s emergency landing in LA marks airline’s fourth safety incident this week

United flight 821 from San Francisco to Mexico City landed at Los Angeles international airport after crew reported hydraulics issue

United Airlines’ bad week for safety issues continued on Friday afternoon when a plane was forced to make an emergency diversion due to an issue with its hydraulic system.

United flight 821 from San Francisco to Mexico City made an emergency landing at Los Angeles international airport after the crew reported a hydraulics issue, the Federal Aviation Authority said.

In a statement, United said the Airbus A320, which was carrying 105 passengers and five crew, landed safely and passengers were scheduled to take a new plane to Mexico City.

The airline said that the plane has three hydraulic systems for redundancy purposes, and that according to preliminary information there was an issue with one of the systems, ABC 7 reported. The FAA said it will investigate.

Friday’s emergency diversion marks United’s fourth emergency this week, and the first not to involve a Boeing plane.

Earlier that day, United flight 2477, a Boeing 737 Max 8 carrying 160 passengers and six crew, was attempting to land at Houston’s George Bush intercontinental airport when it rolled off the taxiway and into the grass. United added that the passengers, who were all safe, deplaned via moveable stairs.

In another incident, United flight 35, a Boeing 777-200 carrying 235 passengers and 14 crew, was taking off from San Francisco to Osaka, Japan, on Thursday when a tire fell off. It landed in the airport’s staff car park, breaking a car window.

The flight returned to the airport, with a United spokesperson saying that the plane was designed to land safely with missing or damaged tires.

On Monday, dramatic footage showed bright flames bursting out of the engine of United flight 1118, a Boeing 737-900 en route from Houston to Fort Myers, Florida. The flight, which was carrying 167 passengers, made an emergency landing back in Houston. Speaking to ABC, passenger David Gruninger said “panic set in with a lot of people” on board.

Also this week, the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on an incident last month in which United flight 1539, a Boeing 737-8, experienced “stuck rudder pedals” during the landing rollout at Newark Liberty international airport in New Jersey.

On Saturday, the justice department said it had opened a criminal investigation into a blowout on another Boeing plane, the 737 Max, on an Alaska Airlines flight in January, said the Wall Street Journal, citing documents and people familiar with the matter.

Earlier in the week, the chair of the NTSB said Boeing would not identify who had worked on the door plug panel in question. Alaska Airlines told Reuters that it was cooperating with the criminal investigation and said the company “do not believe we are a target of the investigation”.

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